The health of pedigree dogs

Posted on March 10, 2016 by Gudrun Ravetz

Sleeping bulldogAlthough, for many of the UK public, pedigree dog breeds only come to their consciousness once a year, when Crufts hits our TV screens, the focus on pedigree breeding over the last few years has led to some improvements in dog health. Recent statistics show a reduction in some hereditary conditions as a result of the vital screening programmes carried out by the BVA and Kennel Club (KC) Canine Health Schemes (CHS).

Yet in practice vets still often see the negative effects of poor pedigree breeding. We as clinicians are having to perform confirmation altering surgery (CAS) and caesareans in order to improve health and welfare for dogs with breed related problems. Having done these surgeries myself whilst in practice I know the strong feelings that these kind of problems can raise within the veterinary team. We are rightly concerned about the welfare of the dogs and have a desire to see improvements to reduce breed related problems.

As with many problems there is no overnight solution and there are many factors that need to be considered and tackled. There are many stakeholders that need to be involved and the veterinary profession is a crucial part of any solution.

The importance of data

Evidence is crucial when trying to make a case for change and reporting CAS and caesareans to the Kennel Club allows them to collect this statistically significant canine health data. Having this data, rather than anecdote, helps to provide evidence for the inheritability of, and the level at which, various conditions occur and this can help to shape future health tests and interventions. For show dogs these reports will also form the basis for any application by the owner to show the dog.

Promoting the benefits to clients

Vet operating on a dogIt can be uncomfortable to have the conversation with a client that you will be 'reporting' them but perhaps instead we should be promoting it to owners as a positive help to aid in an evidenced based approach to improving health and welfare of further generations of the breed.

Why not ask for the KC registration number when the pet is first registered with the practice? This could help to avoid any awkwardness when a report is to be made.

Clients give their consent for this information to be passed to the KC when they register with them. This means that there is no concern for the practice in terms of data protection when submitting the detail of any CAS or caesarean.

An important role for vets

Currently 95% of caesareans reported to the KC are reported by owners. There is obviously enthusiasm for the scheme by many owners but for the scheme to be truly effective it is vital that vets also submit data. 

There is no obligation to report anything but hopefully vets want to be a part of that important role in gathering evidence to improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs across the UK.

Gudrun

See additional information on conformational changes and caesareans including  FAQs for reporting surgical procedures on KC registered dogs (194 KB PDF).

Report CAS and caesarians to the Kennel Club using this simple online reporting form - it doesn't take long!

Gudrun Ravetz

Written by Gudrun Ravetz

BVA past President

Gudrun currently works as a Veterinary Consultant for Denplan and is an interviewer for prospective students at University of Liverpool. Gudrun was previously President of the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS). Follow @RavetzGudrun on Twitter.